In light of the failure of my 870 at the Hard as Hell 3 Gun match it became readily apparent to even me that a new shotgun was definitely needed. To that end I went on a bit of a search for, if not the Holy Grail then at least a serviceable semi automatic shotgun suitable for 3 Gun. Call it the Holy Scattergun. I went through the usual suspects, Beretta, Remington, FNH and Mossberg to name a few. But then I came across this thread. In it the Stoeger M3000 is discussed in some detail as well as it's suitability for 3 Gun. I was intrigued. I did some more research and was happy with what I saw. Stoeger is an offshoot of Benelli and the M3500 has a virtually identical inertia driven action. Call it a C Class Benelli. I was mostly sold. Now all I needed was a chance to handle one.
So I headed down to the local big box outdoor store and lo and behold they had a.....
Stoeger M3500. Wait. What? Well see it's like this. They had a black M3500 with a 26 inch barrel just sitting right there. Looking all lonely and forlorn. The 3500 is identical to the 3000 except for a half inch longer receiver, three and a half versus three. The experts told me to buy it. Lu told me to buy it. The devil on my shoulder told me to buy it. The angel on my shoulder told me stop looking at the Victoria's Secret catalog and buy the stupid shotgun! So I did.
Then, of course, I put it in the gun safe and waited for another day to take it out and shoot it. Not!
Instead I gave in to my baser desires and headed out to the range to put the new girl through her paces.
And it didn't go exactly as I had hoped. See, this thing must be able to shoot lighter 12 gauge loads. Not powder puff stuff but 2 3/4", 3 Dram Eq., 7 1/2s and 8s. Must. It was spotty with all shells ejected but not every new one loaded. Hit and miss. Then I noticed it had a pretty fair glopping of cosmoline all over the operating system. So, back to Casa Six we went for a thorough cleaning and lubrication evolution. Then it was back to the range, hopes high in hand and suicide prevention on the speed dial.
This time I also read the manual (like a big ol' sissy) and noticed the part about breaking it in with heavier loads. So I brought along some of these bad boys. Lead in #2 and #5 and steel in T. Break in shall be accomplished.
I fired off maybe a box or so when excitement and morbid curiosity got the better of me. I also toted along a mixed grab bag of 12 gauge left over from HaH and the 870 who shall not be named. I had 3DE 1 1/8 ounce loads of 8s and 7 1/2s from Federal, Winchester and Brand X (really, I need to start writing this stuff down). Nestled in there, among their larger siblings, was a few rounds of Winchester Extra Light and some 1 ounce loads. The question was would the 3500 shoot it all?
The answer was a qualified you betcha. The only shells it had difficulty with was the extra light loads. This is a 3 1/2 inch gun, capable of handling the heaviest duck and goose loads on the planet so I'm giving her a pass on this one. I'm also convinced, from the way she tried valiantly to cycle them and sometimes did, that with some more break in time she'll eat anything I throw at her and call me a sissy boy to boot. Everything else ran and cycled with no issues at all. Ounce and an eighth 7 1/2 and 8s are right in her wheelhouse. Perfect.
Nordic Components has a mag extension tube kit that will fit her and one is even now winging it's way to the sunny climes of Southern Utah along with an over sized bolt handle. Once those are fitted and we get some more trigger time I'm convinced she'll be one dang fine 3 Gun whacking stick, able to run with the big boys and maybe even show 'em her heels now and again. Providing I do my part of course. And I haven't even mentioned the best part.
She cost me 432 bucks on a suggested retail of 629. That's a cool grand below what most of the other shooters are plunking down for even the most basic shottie currently being run on the circuit (except for the Mossberg JM Pro at about 750 if you can find one). Some of them are going for well north of 3000 dollars. Yikes! P.E. Kelley, writing for Shooting Times, calls it the best kept secret in 3 Gun. I agree. She's a sweet little filly.
So, I have seemingly addressed my shotgun woes. Now it's time to do a little work on the rifle. In looking it seems that a new rifle will set me back several mortgage payments with even uppers nearing a cool thou. Instead I'll be modifying my current 16 inch carbine to better work in the game. Expect a compensator, stock, scope and probably a free float forearm tube.
I have a match coming on the last Saturday in January and it's a 3 Gun Nation classifier. I gotta get hopping.